How to Make an Apple Pie with a Perfect Flaky Crust

Sometimes the fall can be a bit of a depressing time of year for us here at Casual Kitchen. The summer is officially over, the days are becoming noticeably shorter, and darn it all, it's getting cold up here in the northeastern USA!

So it's at this time each year that we give ourselves a big happiness booster by making the classic autumn dessert: apple pie.

In today's post I'll share with you Casual Kitchen's own apple pie recipe, and I'll also share some bonus photos and instructions on how to make a flaky and delicious pie crust.
Apple Pie

Pie Filling:
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash salt
8-9 medium apples, preferably Macintosh apples

Combine sugar, flour and spices. Peel, quarter and core apples, then slice apples thinly (slices should be roughly 1/8 inch thick) into a large bowl. Shake sugar mixture over the apples and mix. Set aside.

Pie Crusts:
2/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons Crisco (vegetable shortening)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 Tablespoons cold water

1) Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Add Crisco. Combine Crisco and flour using a pastry dough blender. When the dough is in pea sized pieces, gradually add the cold water, one tablespoon at a time, while fluffing and folding the dough with a fork.

2) After you've finished adding the water, flour your hands and using your hands gently press the dough into a ball.

3) Cut the dough into two equal-sized balls.
Gently roll lower crust out and lay into a pie pan. Add sliced apples. Roll out the upper crust and lay on top of the apples, molding the two crusts together over the lip of the pie pan (see photos below for more help on making the crust).

4) Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour at 375F.

Since there are some unique subtleties involved in making the perfect apple pie, today's recipe notes will be a bit longer than usual:

1) On choosing the right kind of apples: An in-depth discussion of the ideal apple type for a pie is unfortunately beyond the scope of this post. But for the sake of brevity, I'll share our favorite type of apples: Macintosh--if you can get them both fresh and locally grown. With their complex and slightly acidic taste they make a delicious, tangy, and not-too-sweet pie. If you can't get your hands on fresh Macs, we've found Cortland apples and Rome apples (or even a mix of all three) work well too.

There are dozens of different kinds of apples out there, each with its own taste, texture and consistency. It can be a real joy to compare and contrast pies (as well as other foods) made with different types of apples.

2) Note, however, that certain apples might look pretty in your grocery store, but they can taste surprisingly bland and mealy. Some types of apples end up in your grocery store not because they are particularly delicious or good for baking, but because they can survive a long haul trucking journey without looking too beat up to sell once they finally arrive in your store. Macintosh apples, for example, don't keep as long and don't travel as well as the more cosmetic apple varieties like red delicious or granny smith.

But in my view these sturdier and more cosmetic apples can make for a disappointingly bland pie. If locally grown apples are available where you live, use 'em to make your apple pies. You won't regret it!

3) A few thoughts and pictures to help you make the perfect pie crust: First of all, pie crusts are an excellent example of how we divide up labor at Casual Kitchen according to our respective core competencies. Laura has developed over the years a divine gift for making pie crusts (which, by the way, means that most of the pie crust wisdom in today's post comes entirely from her). I'm faster and more effective at the prep work involved in peeling, coring and slicing the apples, so that's my job. And because we do these two tasks in parallel, we can make a pie extremely quickly and efficiently. If you cook with a partner, spouse or family member, try to divide and conquer your cooking labors according to each person's unique skills and interests. You'll be amazed at how applying these principles can make cooking much more time-efficient and fun.

4) You'll also note the use of Crisco in this crust, even though it's typically a forbidden substance here at Casual Kitchen. You can substitute butter or margarine if you prefer, but Laura has found Crisco to give her the best balance between having dough that's easy to handle and dough that tastes great and has an ideal flaky texture. Plus, we can feed this pie to our vegan friends. But hey, let's not confuse pie with health food.

5) Some dough-making process advice for pie crust beginners: Be sure to coat your rolling surface, rolling pin and practically everything else within reach with a liberal coating of loose flour. This prevents the dough from sticking to everything. It also provides the side benefit of preventing the dough maker from having a temper tantrum.

4) Gently roll out the dough. Try not to overwork the crust. The more gentle you are, the flakier and lighter the final crust will be.

5) Use a thin spatula to gently lift the rolled crust up from your rolling surface:

6) Lay the crust out and gently mold it into the pie pan.

7) Add the apples, place the second crust on top, and pinch the two crusts' edges between your finger and thumb for an aesthetically pleasing look:

8) Don't forget to poke a few holes in the top of the pie with a fork to allow air to escape during cooking:
9) Bake, remove from the oven, photograph, and then enjoy your work of culinary art! Be sure to let it cool a bit before eating.

Related Posts:
How to Team Up in the Kitchen
The Favorite Cookbooks of My Favorite Bloggers
How to Modify a Recipe: The Six Rules
Seven Rules To Ensure Mistake-Free Cooking

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Michele said...

I am going to try your recipe for pastry crust. I am terrible with pastry. My crusts are always tough. I've never tried using maybe that is the answer. :-)

Daniel said...

Hi Michele,

It also probably has to do with overworking the dough. But I hear you... I also do NOT have much of a talent for crusts and pastries (yet....).

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Maybe someone would like to contribute their skills and experience to the Thanksgiving meal! :)

Daniel said...

I think the aformentioned pastry genius here would be happy to lend a hand. :)


Anonymous said...

Crisco misled America for generations about its hydrogenated shortening and now millions of us have clogged arteries because of it. Remember those words: "contains no cholesterol"? Even after Crisco found out hydrogenated vegetable oil CAUSES our bodies to make the bad Cholesterol, they kept making and selling us the dangerous trans fat. And even now Crisco can legally say on their label that a gram of trans fat equals zero trans fat! Oh, we simply Must have flaky pie crusts.

Unknown said...

I've never baked anything from scratch but am a great cook... So I want to try this! Wish me luck

The Calico Cat said...

I'll take crisco over lard any day of the week.

BTW When I am baking with apples (I usually choose the cake over the pie) I use one of each that I can get. The ones that disappear when baking add something that the made for baking ones don't - ditto the sweet vs. tart...

chacha1 said...

I am a big ol' cheater and use Pillsbury refrigerated crusts.

Partly to increase the speed (and ease) of pie and tart production, and partly because my countertops (only available rolling-out surface) are 4" ceramic tile. Which I abominate, but it's a rental so I'm stuck with 'em.

This sounds delicious but the sugar would be cut by half, and spices doubled, chez nous. You can always do a little maple syrup over the top if it's really too tart for comfort.